Accepted paper:

The Kolkata intellectuals and elite identity

Authors:

Kerstin B Andersson (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

Examining the life histories of some members of the intellectual elite in Kolkata, this paper will discuss how elite status has been performed and maintained across the generations.

Paper long abstract:

Examining the life histories of some members of the intellectual elite in Kolkata, this paper will discuss how elite status has been performed and maintained across the generations. The Bhadralok, the "modern" intellectual elite in Kolkata emerged as a distinct social category in the colonial encounter in the 19th century and have sometimes been described as a "colonial middle class" or "subaltern group". The group has a long tradition of intellectualism, radicalism and political activism, and at present, constitutes the leaders in the leftist government. Dominating the political and cultural sectors but not economic activities, the group occupies a social space between the economic elite and the lower groups. The Bhadralok is internally differentiated, but outwardly put forward a common identity, expressed through the discourse of "intellectualism" and displayed in distinct forms of social institutions, culture, lifestyle, values and norms. The discourse of intellectualism encompasses factors as pedigree, education, radicalism, cultural awareness and a common tradition. In Bourdieu's terms, it constitutes a symbolic capital that legitimates status positions and defines distinctions towards other groups in the hierarchically ordered social universe of Kolkata.

panel W025
Elite strategies of distinction and mutuality